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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Making A Pianistic Point At The SAIPC


I've seen contestants in piano competitions play some large and impressive works when trying to stand out from their other competitors. Big and difficult works like Liszt's "b minor sonata" or Ravel's "Gaspard de la Nuit" are sure to get the judges attention, but there is also the fear of losing the audience.

It is not easy programming your first set at a competition. This week on The Piano, we visit more recordings from last October's San Antonio International Piano Competition.There are only two big and challenging works on the program.

First, Johann Sebastian Bach's "Overture in the French Style"

It starts with an overture, and not just any overture, but the longest stretch of keyboard music Bach ever composed. This piece is missing something that shows up in all of Bach's other keyboard suites, the Allemande, so no German dances in this work. Bach uses an echo as the final movement (the only time he did this) and the thematically linked Gigue before it has dynamic markings calling for loud and soft passages. This is an unusual work, and with the stylistic dotted notes that calls for style and French pomp, it is not an easy work to play in competition.

Second, Robert Schumann's "Fantasy in C"

Like most of the composers early piano works, the inspiration came from his constant thoughts of the young Clara Wieck; their separation and how can he overcome her father's objections to their marriage. While pining for Clara, he improvised a piece he entitled "Ruins." Later, when caught up in schemes to raise money for a monument to Beethoven in Bonn, Schumann composed two more movements, "Trophies" and "Palms." These titles later changed to "Triumphal Arch" and "Constellations" with the idea that sales would go toward the monument.

"Fantasy in C" is an impressive work with the pianist sweeping up and down the keyboard. Like some of Schumann's more virtuosic works, the writing is dense and the poetry masterful. Want another link to Beethoven in this musical fund raiser? Schumann uses themes from Beethoven's only song cycle, "To a distant beloved," and the connection to the missing Clara is then made throughout the work.

Hear more from the 2012 San Antonio International Piano Competition this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

Randy was Texas Public Radio's Classical Music Director until 2013 and the longest-serving employee in Texas Public Radio's history. He hosted the very first airshift on KPAC when the station went on the air at 90.9 FM in San Antonio back in November, 1982.